Feb 132021

No not villeins; villains. History’s “bad guys”.

The English did something bad to the Indians (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_India_Company although there were a lots of Scots in the East India Company), the Scottish did something bad to the English (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Alnwick_(1093) – and yes it’s not normally that way around), the Irish did something bad to the Welsh (https://www.libraryireland.com/SocialHistoryAncientIreland/I-III-2.php). And of course the French are always villanous (I’m English after all).

But the more you learn of history, the less easy it becomes to simply classify any nationality as the villains. Sure people did bad things, but a whole nationality? That isn’t so certain.

Take the English-Scottish rivalry for example. It is easy to see it as a simple grab for land; particularly if you’ve watched that Braveheart film and thought it was anything more than simple entertainment. But it turns out to be not quite as simple as that.

Where is the border between England and Scotland anyway? Hadrian’s wall? Or the Antonine wall? Because the border hasn’t always been where it currently is; in fact people have been having rowdy discussions on which bit belongs to whom since before either country existed (and not infrequently using the excuse to make off with each other’s livestock).

In 1018, Malcolm II invaded the northern part of Northumbria, and hung onto it unlike later attempts at a land grab which failed. But was he grabbing land on behalf of Scotland, for his own personal enrichment, or to grant lands to his followers to keep them loyal?

The later was particularly likely as Scotland was not a simple unified nation at the time, and Malcolm II was a high king with several sub-kings giving allegiance.

But were those Northumbrians in the region captured by Malcolm English or Scottish? Did they suddenly become Scottish or did they stay English? Or were they Northumbrian? Or did they think of themselves as Bernicians? Or people of the Hen Ogledd? Because they had been all those within the span of a few hundred years.

But rather than concentrating on destroying the notion of nations created by states for their own convenience, let us switch to something else.

When Malcolm II invaded Northumbria, did he give all his soldiers any choice in the matter? Of course he didn’t; some of his nobles could well have had some say, but the ordinary soldier didn’t. And the same applies for pretty much everything the “English” were responsible for.

Blaming the nation for the crimes of the ruling classes is collective guilt; one step on the way to collective punishment (a war crime). Blame those responsible by all means (and there’s plenty to blame), but don’t condemn a whole country for the crimes of a few.

War Memorial Church
Jun 092015

And Just How Dumb Are Welsh Politicians?

According to the news this morning, the Welsh assembly is to prohibit vaping in enclosed public spaces in the same way that smoking is banned; a bit of cut&paste on the old law. You might expect a moron in a hurry to look at vaping, and say "It looks like smoking so it must be bad." but you should be able to expect that politicians would make a decision based on the available evidence.

However it appears that Welsh politicians have more in common with a moron in a hurry than an idealised poltician.

Before I carry on, let me explain that despite being a vaper (and ex-smoker), if I were to live in Wales, this ban would make practically no difference to me. I don't vape at work (in the office!), in pubs, shops, on trains, or anywhere you can expect the Welsh ban to take effect. I do sometimes wish there was a vaping lounge I could go to on occasions.

The main reason this is such a stupid ban is that it treats vaping as if it were as harmful to the health as smoking. There is not a single serious person who would claim that vaping is as dangerous as smoking. And treating it the same as smoking tells smokers (remember the moron in a hurry) that there's no point in switching to vaping instead because vaping is just as harmful.

There is an argument that whilst the risks are unknown for sure (there is no evidence that secondary vaping is harmful; and plenty of studies that show that secondary vaping is harmless [1], [2], [3]), that it would be nice to stop vaping in public enclosed spaces; just not on the same level as smoking. For example :-

  • Allow pubs to decide whether they allow vaping or not. And to encourage a bit of trendy localism: Why not allow the pub regulars to vote on whether vaping should be allowed or not?
  • Ban vaping in restarants (some of the strange flavours could easily put people off their food) but allow vaping in a lobby area or other ventilated but isolated space.
  • Allow other work-places to set up isolated "vaping lounges".

The intention is to minimise a probably non-existent risk to non-vapers whilst letting vapers get away with just a bit more than smokers. 

Amusingly enough, by consigning vapers to the same sin bin as the smokers, these dumb politicians open themselves up to a class action suit in the future – why should I have to endure the risk of secondary smoking?

There are two daft arguments that I heard used this morning which indicate that some of the Welsh politicians realise just how dumb they're being :-

  1. Allowing vaping in enclosed public spaces normalises smoking. It doesn't normalise smoking unless you're a moron in a hurry – it's quite easy to tell the difference between vapour and smoke. The smell of vapour is far nicer! It "normalises" vaping as a better choice than smoking.
  2. It acts as a gateway to smoking. No; it's a gateway out of smoking. 

Even if you were to disagree with my assessments of these two arguments, the fact they are being made at all indicates just how poor the argument for banning vaping in public really is. 

Dec 132006

You often find the far right making ridiculous claims about the virtues of the ‘anglo-saxon’ race and assuming that the modern English people share those virtues. They use this as a justification for being hostile to modern immigrants as though the English race is something special that needs protecting. It is curious that these people are so ignorant of the history of the English people given they are so proud of it.

Nothing wrong with being proud of being English and of being proud of English history … I’m both. But please lets put to rest this idea that we English have any kind of racial purity.

The name for these collected islands is “Britain” which originates from the original “Brython” being the Celtic name for these islands. For many centuries, the Celts had these misty isles to themselves, but then the Romans arrived and stayed for a while. Of course it was not only Romans who came but many people from all over Western Europe who had some reason or another to visit our islands. Then they left, except of course they did not really … at the very least they left many reminders of their visit, including not only Roman civilisation (which many of the Celts readily adopted and modified) but intermarriage is never as rare as people think.

We mistakenly believe that all the Celts up sticks and moved to Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Brittany once the Angles and Saxons started arriving, however that is very unlikely. Sure many Celts moved to those places, but most probably stayed right where they were and stayed peasants under different landlords.

The concept that the ‘anglo-saxons’ were a single people is similarly mistaken … they were Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (at least … we do not know for sure that there were not others as the Romano-Celts had tried hiring mercenaries from wherever they could find them and many of those stayed). Although the three named tribes were probably pretty close, they were still distinct people.

Then of course we had the Vikings, raiding, raping, and eventually settling. And then the Normans (of course being Vikings who had settled in Normandy) turned up and threw the Anglo-Saxon royalty out on their ear.

Then far more recently we had a world empire (by far the largest the world has ever seen) where we had people from all over the world visiting, staying, and intermingling.

These are just the big waves of immigration. Many smaller waves of immigration have happened throughout our history. Almost everybody in England will probably have a mixture of Celtic, Anglo, Saxon, and Viking blood with a small pinch from almost anywhere.

Channel 4 recently had a TV programme about DNA testing of a random sample of English people to test what their ancestry was … and the results indicated that most had very mixed backgrounds. Not really much of a surprise given our history.

The idea that the English have any kind of racial purity is ridiculous and that is a good thing. We should celebrate that we are a mongrel race, because that is what we are and if we have any kind of greatness it is because it is what we are. It is our mixture of backgrounds, and influences from all over the world that has given us greatness.

So if anything modern immigration is a good thing because it gives the English people more of what made us great.